toad-in-a-hole

toadinahole201602

I just felt like it, so I went to the supermarket and bought a packet of sausages. The batter is a standard pancake / yorkshire pudding mix.

150g flour
2 eggs
450ml milk
seasoning

Make a hole in the flour, add the eggs and milk and whisk until no lumps. Add s&p and herbs, I used thyme.

Heat oven to 200ºC, roast the sausages in 2tbsp oil for 5-10mins. Pour the batter into the baking tray and bake until golden, around 40mins.

I think the tray was too large so the batter was too spread out, making it a bit burnt at the bottom. In retrospect I should have bought two packets of sausages; or used a smaller baking tray.

Seasoning was nice. Crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. And sausages.

japanese whisky price explosion

Posted a bunch of classifieds today, all sorts of stuff for sale. Within an hour, I got a response for a hand blender we never used. Walked down to the station to exchange–the buyer sent her son, hahaha.

hk2016yoichi12

Clicking around the website, found some whiskies for sale. This is Yoichi 10, for sale at equivalent of US$240. This was what we saw at Nikka distillery in 2014:

nikka132yoichi10

Distillery price of ¥4,643 translates to US$40. Granted, distillery price was the absolute lowest available. I don’t have Yoichi 12; I have even better: 2 bottles of 15yr and a bottle of 20yr. I bought the 20yr at the distillery for equivalent of US$190. I repeat, open market price for a 10yr is $240; I bought a 20yr at the distillery for $190.

hk2016miyagikyo12

Here’s another for sale. Miyagikyo 12 for US$330. I bought mine in Japan for the equivalent of US$70. I also have a bottle of 15yr for just under US$100. Miyagikyo distillery is located in Sendai, around 120km from the Fukushima nuclear plant that was devastated after the tsunami in 2011. Even though at the time the distillery didn’t suffer damages, I always think people will be wary of the water quality in whiskies down the line. Miyagikyo is very rarely seen outside Japan, which adds to their value. Personally, I prefer it to Yoichi so I began looking out for them early on in our Japan travels.

It’s unreal, seeing Japanese whiskies advertised at prices that are multiples of how much we paid. It’s another sign of the serious shortage of Japanese whisky, and how aged expressions will soon be no longer available. This definitely bumps up the prices. Holy cow, how much is my Yoichi 20 worth? If I bought it at US$190, and open market is running at 5x that, it’s worth, gulp, almost US$1,000. Or more, since older whiskies are always more expensive.

Not that I’ll ever sell, mind you.

running Paris marathon for the GCLS

I’ve done the running sponsorship once before and that’s it. I remember telling my friend CC about Chicago marathon and her first reaction was to reach for her wallet and ask “who are you running for?” So sweet, but I explained that I wasn’t running for any charity. She was puzzled; like many non-runners she associated races with sponsorships. All well and good, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t run for charity–while I cheer on the fundraising and good cause, I hate the way that races have been taken over to the point of being hijacked by charities. How many years have I entered for the VLM lottery? 100% failure rate.

parismarathon

I guess it’ll have to be a really great cause to get me to go the race sponsorship route. I’ve been involved with the GCLS for a few years now, I feel like I’m contributing, and they appreciate my efforts by giving me an award last year. As the organisation grows, so do operating expenses and the need to provide even more to members in the form of scholarships and technology. It seemed an opportune time to combine Paris marathon with the GCLS.

As I don’t live in the US, I approached the Board to figure out a way that works best for everyone. I initially thought about having sponsors fill out a form (so I can track total amount) and then donating directly. The Board did one better: they kindly created a fund just for me, to provide a convenient place to make and collect donations. That’s simply…awesome.

Here is the call for sponsorship that I posted on fb earlier, and is also on the description on the fund page:

On 3 April 2016 I will wake up early, gobble down several delicious French pastries, lace up my best running shoes and participate in the Paris Marathon. This is my 5th marathon and my first race on Continental Europe. The course takes us past sights such as Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

This year, I will run in honour of the GCLS.

As many of you know, the GCLS is close to my heart and I am involved in their mission to educate, recognise and promote lesbian literary work. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation, entirely run by volunteers and funded through donations. Please consider sponsoring me in my efforts to help in their cause.

Here’s the link to donate online: http://www.goldencrown.org/donations/fund.asp?id=14228

Every little counts! Thank you in advance for your sponsorship. Look out for updates and race pics in April.

dinner with friends

The movers dropped a few boxes in the morning so I could do some packing myself. Books, filing cabinet, desk, stationery, cds, dvds, wii, towels, beddings, bathroom stuff and clothes except for those on hangers are done. I’ll leave hanged clothes for the movers, they will bring large boxes.

Had to run out to the station to hand over half a dozen cups to a buyer. Definitely selling at a loss, the cost of the bus fare back and forth was 20% of the selling price. I wish I can find someone to buy all the candles.

lab01carpaccio lab05risotto
lab02pork lab03steak
lab06cheesecake lab07fondant

Dinner with ex-colleagues at a place called lab eats. Nothing experimental about it, fairly standard food. This group tends to share, even western meals. Hmm. One of the ex-colleagues know the owners so we got a 12% discount. Had a nice bottle of wine, beef carpaccio, a great pork chop, wagyu steak, paella, risotto. The group initially wanted the wagyu steak done medium, crikey!! I intervened and ordered it medium rare but it came overdone anyway. Dessert was mango & lychee cheesecake and chocolate fondant.

We were chatting till quite late, it was good to see them. The food was good but not stunning. Mostly expensive ingredients, which I guess is the selling point. How it was cooked IMO didn’t do the quality of the food justice. Just look at the sides for the 2 mains: potato croquette and a sad combo of beans and baby corn. Gravy that tasted like it came out of a packet. My favourite dish was the pork, and also the creamy risotto. Again, they justified the price by adding foie gras on top, but I could have just eaten the risotto on its own. The beetroot crisp on the side was excellent.

running around day 2

I need to get a medical certificate for the marathon, so I booked an appointment for a health checkup. It’s high time I had a checkup anyway. I very rarely go to the doctor’s so I was a bit lost about what to do. Basically the routine is go from one location seeing one nurse or doctor or specialist after another: take BP, take history, physical examination, blood test, EKG, chest x-ray, cashier. Went from LG1 to LG2 to 5th floor to ground floor of a 5 wing hospital. Argh.

Some of the nurses and specialists were nice. The one nurse ‘in charge’ of me was especially great. The doctor who did the physical exam I didn’t like. Not only was he completely without expression, it seemed like he was going through the motions. Plus he wanted to charge me local $500 ($65) for signing a simple medical cert. The checkup nurse pulled me aside and advised me to take the report and go to a family doctor. Well, she actually said my family doctor but she wasn’t to know I almost never go to the doctor. I have been to one near mm a lot of years ago, or I can use my sis’ doctor. Let’s see.

By the end of the tests I was hungry and thirsty–no food or drink (except a little water) allowed for 8hrs prior. So I quickly made my way to the nearest housing estate to have breakfast. Then it was neither here nor there. It was 11am, I was at the other side of town, I had an appointment at 2.30pm. What to do with the time. At the end, I went home. But better to spend 1hr getting home and having a cup of tea and relaxing than wandering around aimlessly for more than 3hrs.

The appointment at 2.30pm was with my FA, to sign some forms and talk about strategy in light of recent market downturns and the pound’s devaluation. I wanted to buy some more GBP since it’s so cheap. So we decided to take some profit in one of the USD funds and keep the GBP either as cash or in money market bonds. Then when GBP goes back up again, sell and repurchase other funds. We met a a coffee shop and since I hadn’t had anything since breakfast, the berry tart was my lunch.

noodleskale201602 barbaresco1996

Went over to sis’, she invited me for dinner. We had another vegetarian meal, this time of rice noodles and baked kale. I could have finished the entire try of kale myself. I brought over a bottle of wine from my collection–time to start drinking up my stash, in the new spirit of downsizing I going to work at reducing the size of my alcohol stash. This was a Barbaresco 1996 I bought in Verona when I was living in Zurich. It means that it’s been shipped 1.5 times around the world. The cork was a bit soaked and soft but I carefully took it out to prevent the wine from being corked. Immediately I could smell the fruit. Peppery, rich, fruity. Good wine.

Finally, the end result of another running around day. No real running, must go tomorrow. My right arm has a big bruise where they took a blood sample. It’s a sign of whether the technican is any good, I’ve had blood taken out with just a pin prick and no bruise. This time, it was quite painful when she was drawing blood (even though I’m not afraid of needles or having blood taken) and now there’s a 10p coin sized bruise. On my left side, I banged my little finger against something on the bus and it’s now swollen, feels bruised and I can’t bend it. Argh.

running around day

A busy running around sort of day. Had to wait in the morning for a buyer for one of the microwaves to come by. The first interested party dropped off the radar ignoring me so I contacted the second person interested. She quickly sent her helper and we got the microwave in the taxi pronto.

Then took the useless printer, the old MSI netbook and a bunch of firewire external hard disks to the recycling centre. Those were the ginormous ext HDs that were 500MB, a big thing in their day. I’m too frugal to take a taxi so the netbook and ext HDs were in my backpack and I was carrying the printer on the bus.

Met mm for a quick lunch at a Japanese place. She had grilled mackerel and I had chirashi set. We caught up and it was good to just spend a little time together.

vegtraybake201602

Hurried back home, collected the dehumidifier, sled and lawn chair. Called a UberVan to take me and the really heavy stuff to sis’ place. I’m teenager sitting tonight while Sis and Rob go to a school parents’ event. In theory my niece is old enough to stay at home on her own, but I guess it gives Sis and Rob peace of mind when I’m there. I really only read, watch tv and cook dinner. Dinner tonight was vegetarian tray bake: potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, red onion, whole garlic, halloumi and olive. It was very nice, if I say so myself. And I got compliments from everyone, Rob even got second helpings when they came back from the meeting. Nice way to end the evening.

packing, getting ready for move

robpacking01

I’m home to sell stuff, and to prep for the move. Throwing away as much as I can, I downsized a bit when I moved to London from Chicago (half the size for double the rent) and now it’s time to downsize even more. There is no reason one person should have so much stuff.

I asked the movers to deliver boxes ahead of time so I can pack; they’re doing that on Thursday. In the meantime I found some existing boxes and managed to start with packing. These boxes represent the contents of my 4 small cabinets and my desk.

In addition I threw away 4 rubbish bag full of useless stuff.

croissants straight or curved

Tesco, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that customers prefer straight croissants rather than the traditional crescent shaped ones, so they will going forward only sell straight croissants. This is because of something called the

spreadability factor

which determines how easily it is to spread butter, jam, marmalade or other filling. Apparently straight croissants people can spread using one single motion vs curved croissants which take more.

Sounds completely ridiculous. Why do people want to spread butter or jam on croissants? And even if they do, what’s the big deal about 2 more knife strokes? Anyway, the way to eat croissants is to tear it apart, enjoying the fluffy interior full of holes and soft, buttery bread. They already taste good, there is no need to add filling.

Oh, and apparently Tesco customers find straight croissants more sophisticated. I question who are these Tesco customers. Not this one. I personally think the move is because straight croissants are easier to machine make and package. Some clever PR person came up with the spreadability and sophisticated talking points.

paicrosnacks02

Even the Japanese get croissants right. I saw a packet of croissant-like snacks at the Japanese food store. The croissants inside are tiny and bite-sized. Even opening the packet, I get the smell of croissants–okay, that’s a stretch, it’s more like margarine, crusty bread and sugar. The snacks are butter sugar flavoured, so they are very sweet. Super crispy, light, and crumble easily, just like a real croissant.

I found a review of a version found presumably in the US. The reviewer found that it is a

very “junky” snack which has both qualities of being appealing (crispy, sweet, buttery), but also tastes “cheap” (tasting like cheap bread and margarine/oil)

Found a different flavour on amazon. Wow, $80 for 12. That’s like 3 times the price.

Oh, and like croissants and other French pastries, these snacky things should be eaten either in moderation or after running. One packet is 370 calories.

bbmm sunset

sunset01cyberport201602

After I finished selling the first of my cabinets on Saturday, mm drove over and we went for a short drive. She’s been on a Corona kick lately, so she brought a couple of bottles as well as a large bag of crisps. I brought lemon wedges. We found a bench in the waterfront park at cyberport and chatted for about 2hrs. Nothing much in particular, just her latest school stuff and my family stuff.

Nice day to sit outside. There were too many dogs at the park for me to be entirely comfortable; luckily the majority were well trained to ignore people.

When we left it was a glorious sunset over the water. This was from the iphone and not photoshopped.

selling stuff

I’m going to move to my parents’ permanently. It’s not worth keeping my flat empty more than 50% of the time when it can be rented out.

Though in theory everything from my flat will fit into parents’ flat, it will be cramped. So I’m selling stuff. There’s not a huge second-hand market here, but Sis suggested posting on the local expat forum’s classified section.

2drawer 3drawer

First to be posted are two sets of small cabinets that were bought almost 20 years ago. After 2 complete trips around the world, they are still in good condition. I posted the 2-drawer set and got responses within a few hours. Sold to the first person who contacted me. To the second person I said I have a 3-drawer set, will she be interested? Yes, so I didn’t even need to post it. The first buyer sent his maid over today and we got the units into a taxi for her to take home (they’re only 5 mins’ walk away). The second buyer will pick the units up next week.

microwave01 candles2016

print03 print02

Thus encouraged, I will post more stuff this weekend. Microwaves (one from Switzerland, one from UK), candles, prints, chairs, two Ikea side tables, wireless router that has never been used. Not expecting a lot of money; every little will go towards the cost of the movers.

I remember an ex-colleague said she’s addicted to selling stuff on ebay. Now I can see why. I’m mentally going through the content of my flat and figuring out what else I can sell.

#40 walk to mordor 1779 miles

mordorwalk1786

20.75km 2.56.00hr 8.29min/km

Task #40 of 101.1001 is to complete the walk to mordor challenge of 1779 miles / 2863km.

With today’s long run, I’m now at 1786 miles / 2874km, so I’ve reached the target. This is the last part, when the fellowship broke up at Rauros. Frodo and Sam travelled 470 miles to Mt Doom in a tough 30 day journey, first paddling and then climbing, climbing, climbing. Plus meeting and fighting Gollum.

mordorwalk1786chart

It’s taken 26 and a bit months to do this. Some months I clocked more than others. Initially I was just getting through the minimum and then marathon training helped a lot–probably if I weren’t training for 2 marathons I may find if hard to finish.

To recap:

  • 458 miles: from Hobbiton to Rivendell
  • 462 miles: set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien = 920 miles total
  • 389 miles: from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls = 1309 miles total
  • 470 miles: Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom = 1779 miles total

101.1001 challenge done, but the overall challenge continues. I wonder how long it’ll take me to complete the remaining 1618 miles / 2604km that takes the fellowship from Minas Tirith back to Bag End especially since there’s no deadline. I work best with a target date.

asian lunch with sis

minhkok01starter

Lunch with sis at a vietnamese/thai restaurant. It’s on a pedestrianised street nicknamed “food street” with lots of different types of restaurants. Aside from this asian themed one, there’s simply life, mediterranean, tapas, burger, steak, a taproom and around the corner a posh chachanteng and a gelateria.

minhkok02laksa minhkok03verm

We had the set lunch with a choice of noodle dishes: laksa, pho, bun vermicelli, fried noodles. There’s an optional starter platter of rice roll, spring roll and satay. We ordered one starter, supposedly to share but I ate all of it. Sis had laksa and I had bun vermicelli with pork which is a cold noodle with crunchy salad and the ubiquitious nước chấm sauce.

All very nice. Sometimes it’s hard to find good vietnamese / thai places that are one step up from street food. This is by a large conglomerate, but done pretty well.

fascinating north korea pics

I have a morbid fascination with North Korea. Currently it’s fairly nearby in terms of geography and a quick bit of googling tells me that there are package tours. Expensive, the 4-day tour is more than the flight+5 nights hotel package I got for Paris. Plus a) it departs Beijing and b) it’s more for foreign passport holders.

Which is why I was so fascinated at a r/pics thread of a European traveller who went to the DPK recently and came back with wonderful pics. Many were quick snaps out of range of the ever-present guides.

dpkshop

The pic that grabbed my attention to the thread, entitled Off-limits shop in North Korea. I had 15 seconds to take this picture before my guide realised I wasn’t around, which says it all really.

Road to North Korea

The first album posted, of the initial part of the journey, is a huge eye-opener. It isn’t entirely surprising, because we know about the poverty, isolation and amount of propaganda there, especially as more and more people visit. It’s just sad and shocking to the system to see how real it is. It’s worth scrolling through every pic and reading the commentary.

p.s. all pics copyright Michael Huniewicz @ m1key.me

external hard disk

All of a sudden the mba stopped recognising the external hard disk. The connection had been loose for a while: I had to fiddle with the cable but I thought I’d be all right for a while.

I took it to the computer repair shop. The lady there was very efficient, she took one look and gave it to one of the technicians to test. If it’s just the power supply / casing, then they will change it for me. If the hard disk itself is corrupted, then it’s a lot more expensive to recover data. Overall more expensive than I thought. Changing the casing is local $500 (USD65), data recovery starts at local $2000 (USD250). And recovery isn’t guaranteed.

The hard disk itself didn’t sound like it’s corrupted so at the back of my mind, it needs a new power supply. Confirmed by the technician, who took it out of the casing and was able to read it on one of their macs.

Now the question was, do I pay for a new casing or abandon the drive? Is the data inside very important? Arguable. With one exception, original files are easily accessed elsewhere:

  • personal documents, letters: backup from mba
  • photos: mba and flickr
  • writing & design: that’s the bulk of the most important stuff, already in mba and backed up in dropbox, google docs and flashdrive
  • ebook purchases: mba, dropbox and obviously ipad
  • website: worst case scenario can restore from ISP, they take backups every 12 or 24hrs
  • travel notes and expenses: backup from mba, recent notes in evernote

The only files that aren’t in the mba and not backed up anywhere else are itunes files. I have over 10,000 songs, plus some videos and podcasts. I’m not worried about videos and podcasts, it’s the music that is the issue. Like most early ipod owners the music library was initially built by ripping CDs. I have about 90% of those CDs but can’t imagine ripping them again, especially since I’ll either have to use the old mbp or buy an external DVD drive. Later music were from limewire (hangs head) then amazon or legitimate free sites like noisetrade.

Anyway, tl;dr: too much effort to rebuild music library. So I opted to pay for the casing.

exthd2016

I went and got another external hard disk immediately afterwards. The ironic thing is, a new 1TB drive cost 20% less than a new casing for the old drive. Spent a few hours copying files back and forth. Now I have a backup and a backup of the backup.

tesla model S for kids

We’ve been seeing a lot of Tesla cars on the road. When it first came out, it was a rarity and we made it a game to spot different colours. Now, they’re everywhere. I was waiting for mm to arrive in ryan and in the space of 5-10mins saw 4 different Teslas up and down our street.

teslakids

Now ready for pre-order and available in May, the Tesla model S for kids made by Radio flyer. There’s a lot of realistic details:

working headlights, standard Model S paint schemes and a sound system that will accommodate a mobile device for some road trip tunes. What’s more, the children’s option has two speed settings that top out at 3 MPH and 6 MPH respectively.

We had an electric car when we were kids, it was state-of-the-art in those days. I wonder if I can fit inside this kids’ Tesla?

The only thing I don’t like about the whole thing is the ad where all the drivers are boys except for the one girl who is chugging along slowly. I actually tweeted @radioflyer:

clever phone bot confuses scam junk callers

No one I know likes junk calls. Many countries have a Telephone Preference Service / Do No Call list, but scammers ignore those and use spoof numbers to fool would-be victims.

I have a crowdsourced app where people report the numbers and nature of cold callers which is then written to my contacts list. When one of these numbers call, I can see from caller ID that it’s a beauty centre or fake loan company or whatever scam-du-jour.

There are different variants in different countries. The newest champion of consumers is Roger Anderson, who created a bot called the Jolly Roger Telephone Co. The bot is remarkably human-like, its intention is to fool cold callers that they are talking to a human being. It responds with a “hello” to get autodialers to respond and transfer to humans. It converses using ambigious “yeah” “uh-huh” and “right” responses. If the caller starts to get suspicious, the fun starts:

it responds with a few different things, like telling “honey” it’s on the phone right now and asking the telemarketer to repeat, or going into a short story about how it just woke up and needs some coffee

Giz called him a hero and points out that

before you feel bad for the people making these calls, it’s important to remember that they’re often using spoofed numbers to get around the FCC’s do not call lists.

Calls are recorded and posted for our enjoyment. This one is from “PC Solutions” about a virus on his computer. I love love love when the bot says there’s a bee on his arm but the caller should keep talking. Hahaha.

There’s now a kickstarter to expand the service to more voices and comments as well as to pay for the bot’s phone line. In the meantime anyone in the US or UK can forward or conference junk callers to the bot by following simple instructions: US | UK.

It’s a small dent in the fight against scam junk callers, but it’s a start. Plus, it’s amusing.

bbmm friday

brownconey

Outing with mm. Met near a street market then ambled our way south. Rested for tea at Toast Box, a Singaporean kaya toast place. Early dinner at an AYCE hotpot place, then walked it all off at another street market.

Poor mm, she’s been stressed and unhappy. Quite teary too so it was my job to try to distract her and cheer her up. It’s really just listening and giving positive suggestions. She’s been holed up at home doing homework and dealing with idiots at the uni, sometimes she just needs a breather and a different perspective. Told her I’ll go over and have a drink or snack whenever she needs.

WP theme, donation begging

sosimpletheme

I grudgingly make the concession that one of the best things about WP is that I can change themes with just a few clicks. I found one called SoSimple that is, well, so simple. I tweaked it a little, disabled the forced uppercase and changed the link colour. I still need to increase the padding on main entries, but other than that, it’s clean, sharp and uncluttered.

The only problem is that every time I go to the dashboard there is a donation begging notice from the developer.

sosimpledonation

It’s a bit small on the image, it says:

Hi! This is Fernando, developer of the SoSimple theme :).
I am doing my best to make SoSImple [sic] the perfect free theme for you. If you think it helped you in any way to build a better web presence, please support its continued development and updates with a donation of $20, $50,…

I understand that the dev has put in a lot of time and effort to create the free theme. Same with devs working on plugins and everything else available on the web for free. But forcing a begging notice on users is not the way to go. It’s tacky. Like authors who are constantly posting “buy my book” on social media; the good intention becomes a turn off.

A little digging reveals the begging button and text are in the file admin.php. I thought deleting the file would solve the problem, but it wasn’t so simple (pun not intended). There change needs to be in functions.php that calls admin.php. I commented the whole section out:

/**
* Add admin notices

add_action ( ‘current_screen’, ‘thisScreen’ );
function thisScreen () {
$currentScreen = get_current_screen();
if( $currentScreen->id === “dashboard” ) {
add_action ( ‘admin_notices’, ‘donation_notice’ );
add_action ( ‘admin_head’, ‘donation_style’ );
}
}

function donation_notice () {
require get_template_directory () . ‘/lib/admin.php’;
}

function donation_style () {
wp_enqueue_style ( ‘don-style’, get_template_directory_uri () . ‘/lib/admin-style.css’, array (), ” );
}

*/

I don’t have any qualms about doing this. The whole philosophy behind WP is that it’s free. If a dev wants to make money, make a premium version, or offer support for a subscription. Anyway, looking at the code, it’s obvious that the dev intends for the begging to continue regardless of whether the user has donated or not. Every time I navigate to the dashboard, I’d get the notice which I then have to dismiss. Again, tacky.

applesauce cake-bread

applesaucecake02

This applesauce bread-cake recipe is from cooking on a bootstrap, formerly known as A Girl Called Jack. Jack Monroe is a writer, cook and activist who first came into the public eye as a blogger sharing recipes from trying to survive as a single parent on £10 a week. Now a media personality due to activism against poverty (and the Tory govt) and after coming out as non-binary transgender. Interesting person to follow on twitter, there are always good stories on politics, family and cooking.

This is a vegan recipe that is supposed to cost 9p per serving. It’s always good to come across healthier recipes.

2 apples (whatever kind)
1 tsp lemon juice
100ml vegetable oil
225g plain flour
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar (if using tart apples)

Dice apples and cook with lemon juice until soft. Leave the skin on for texture. Leave to cool. The recipe says to drain but I didn’t have any liquid in the pan.

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, add applesauce and oil. I found the mixture very dry so I added a little water to loosen it up.

Bake at 180ºC for 35-40mins.

applesaucecake04

The result was nothing like I expected. It was quite dry and almost like a crumble. I think it needed one more apple and lots more liquid. Or I hadn’t cooked the apples mushy enough. It was nice though, if I didn’t think of it as being like the apple equivalent of banana bread. I was missing the richness of butter; flavourless sunflower oil simply isn’t as good.

Served with vanilla ice cream, which was gave more sweetness and acted as sauce (took it out of vegan territory, but it’s not important for us). I’m thinking we can also use custard, jam, honey, fruit compote or coulis. It definitely needed a sauce or accompaniment.

fun chocolate creations

easteregg

It’s Ash Wednesday so Easter is just around the corner. Not doing anything in particular for Lent.

Easter means easter eggs, which reminds me of this gallery of unusual chocolate creations.

chocolatemary

In keeping with the Easter theme, here’s a chocolate statue of Mary at an Amsterdam parade.

chocolateshoe

We had fun with a chocolate shoe a few years ago, most chocolate shoes seem to be women’s pumps, I guess a) chocolate appeal to women and b) the shape looks good. But these formal chocolate shoes look really great, they were part of a Salon du chocolate in Paris in 2011.

happy pancake day

pancakeday2016

It’s Shrove Tuesday, so I made pancakes for tea. Easy to remember ingredients:

100g flour + pinch of salt
300ml milk
2 eggs
1tsp vegetable oil

The recipe says to rest the batter for 30mins. I usually don’t, but this time I did. A little googling reveals that it’s to do with letting the starch absorb the liquid, the gluten to relax and the air bubbles to disperse evenly. The end result is supposed to be a thick, uniform batter and more delicate cooked product.

They do seem easier to cook, although we scoffed them down too quickly to really appreciate the texture or delicate taste. The first one never works properly–that’s an accepted fact. Cook’s perk.

Parents had them with maple syrup or peanut butter. I had mine with lemon and sugar. Simple is best.

CNY Indian dinner

CNY dinner was at an Indian vegetarian restaurant. I saw a poster that they are having a promotion every Monday in February: eat and pay as you like. They don’t take reservations for this promotion so we got there at around 5.50pm. There was already a queue on the street. We were lucky enough to get a table. The restaurant was full, but everyone was polite and orderly when getting the food (no mainlanders, that’s why).

cny2016buffet

I filled up my plate on my first visit, with almost everything available at the buffet. The familiar paneer, aloo gobi (cauliflower), aloo chaat (potato curry) and the less familiar idli sambar (white cake with sauce) and medu vada (fried doughnut). For dessert there were the very sweet gulab and gaajar ka halwa, made from grated carrot, milk, sugar and we tasted something like semolina inside.

cny2016dosa02

We asked for something not spicy and the manager brought us a huge dosa. That was definitely the highlight of the meal, crispy and flavoursome.

We had a couple of bottles of wine, nice but a bit pricey. The pay as you like was a bit strange, they presented a bill together with an empty lai see envelope and didn’t explain anything. Apparently the amount on the bill is the suggested payment and you’re supposed to put it in the envelope.

Overall, not a bad meal. Didn’t blow me away. When we left at around 8pm the queue downstairs was still going strong. Looks like they will have a very full house.

running 20160207

running20160207

10.13km 1.15.17hr 7.25min/km

An unremarkable distance over an unremarkable time. But it’s my first run in 12 days, so it’s a small achievement. I’m ignoring that according to the training program, it’s supposed to be a 17mile/27km run this weekend. I need to slowly get back on track.

I have a suspicion that the GPS is short when I run along bowen road. It felt slower than 7.25. I don’t remember stopping halfway, even though the app says I did. Hmm. The first dip is a long uphill stretch and the last 2 dips are for uphill and traffic light.

I’m still coughing, but I don’t feel like I’m coughing up my lungs constantly. It’s gotten better the last 1-2 days but I know it’ll take a few more weeks to clear.

Another positive: no knee pain, yay.

london planning

brixton044francopizza

I haven’t sorted out where we will stay in London; it’s been very difficult to find an airbnb that is in a convenient area, looks like it’s actually someone’s home (vs crappy short lets managed by rental companies) and within our budget. I’m not only looking at W9/NW6, I’ve gone all the way up the Northern and Bakerloo lines as well as west on the Central line. Forget about hotels, way too expensive.

My plans for London:

  • hawksmoor: it’s been way too long since I had a chateaubriand there; and sticky toffee pudding
  • dishoom: must take Mum to this Indian street food restaurant
  • this new £10 steak place i found on twitter, flat iron
  • franco manca pizza
  • pollen street social or wahaca
  • whatever new restaurants I come across
  • saveloy and chips
  • go to the supermarket and to get food to cook at ‘home’ especially lamb shoulder, veal chop, rainbow trout, asparagus (is it even in season?), samphire, savoy cabbage, kale, celeriac
  • go to the supermarket in general
  • borough market
  • matby street market: this is new for me, looks like lots of food
  • the new whisky exchange shop in covent garden
  • collect mail from my friend cc
  • see if any friends are free for a meal or drink
  • watch tv

Mum’s plans are similar, except her list of shops is longer: Waitrose, John Lewis, M&S, Primark, Body Shop, Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Hotel Chocolat and other chocolate places. Okay, I want to go to some of those too.

Brittany planning

France-001130 - St-Malo
flickr: archer10 under CC

Our base in Brittany is St Malo. It consists of a walled city built in the early 1700s, a port and a long stretch of beach along the coast. Nearby are many picturesque villages: Cancale famous for its oysters; Pointe du Grouin with a view of Mont St Michel to the east and beaches to the west Dinard which is right across the mouth of the river but 20mins drive away, offering the best view of St Malo.

West of St Malo is the Côtes d’Armor. So many places to visit, but we’ll see how far we can drive in one day. One hour west and a good destination is Cap Fréhel peninsula, with cliffs, heather marshes and two lighthouses. 1.5hrs away from Cap Fréhel is Île-de-Bréhat, called the island of flowers, accessible by boat and full of nice walks. If we’re truly ambitious, we’ll aim for Ploumanac’h, two hours from Cap Fréhel which has breathtaking views of rock formations and lighthouses. I’m not sure if we can get that far, but if we’re really organised.

Inland from St Malo is the regional city of Rennes, an hour away. There is a large market on Saturdays so we’ll aim for that. On the road to Rennes are plenty of typical Breton villages and towns like Dinan, Combourg, Bécherel and Hédé that can be nice stopping points.

We will have one more full day in the area. We can revisit some of the places, or take a longer drive out to other parts of Brittany. In the 2.5-3hr range SW are Quimper with a daily covered market, a cathedral and timber houses and Concameau with a walled town and fishing harbour. Directly south of St Malo, also in the 2.5-3hr range are Carnac with iconic standing stones and Vannes on the Golfe du Morbihan with more beaches and islands. It’ll be good to see the south/southwest coast in addition to the north coast.

From St Malo we’ll head to the UK for a week. Instead of going back to Paris and getting the Eurostar, I’ve booked us on an overnight ferry to Portsmouth. Ahhh, back to the good old days of crossing the channel via ferry. Remember those £1 vouchers for Dover to Calais, hahaha.

Normandy planning

Honfleur...
flickr: catherine ¨MOSINIAK-PAILLIER under CC

Our base in Normandy is Honfleur, arguably the artistic centre of Normandy. At least, according to the artists who formed l’école de Honfleur: Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind. It’s been said that

if you’ve spent any time in major art galleries, then you’ve already seen Honfleur

Aside from art galleries, there is the Ste Catherine church, the Vieux Bassin old harbour as well as markets. It’d be wonderful if we can catch a returning fishing boat and buy seafood directly from them. We’re staying at an airbnb so we will have our own kitchen.

Day trips planned from Honfleur:

  • Côte Fleurie: the stretch of coastline extending from Honfleur, with a dozen seaside towns and beautiful views of the English Channel
  • Lisieux: France’s second most important site for pilgrimage, in honour of Sainte-Thérèse. St Teresa’s is my local church (admittedly I don’t go often) so the Basilica will be a place both Mum and I will want to visit. I read that the whole town is a bit like going to the cult of Ste Thérèse, I think the level of devotion and craziness will be similar to what we saw in Assisi over St Francis and St Clare
  • Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, Livarot: cheese, cheese, cheese (and cider too)
  • Bayeaux: there’s this really famous tapestry there
  • Normandy landing beaches: just to see a part of world history, there still bunkers, the remains of Mulberry Harbour and the D-Day Monument at Omaha Beach, not to mention cemeteries

Mont-St-Michel is in Normandy, but closer to our next destination of St Malo in Brittany. We’ll either visit on the way from Honfleur to St Malo, or as part of a day trip there.

normandy impressionists

parisnormandymap

On the way from Paris to Honfleur in Normandy, I was going to stop at Rouen to visit the cathedral and the market. There is plenty enough to do, and it means a leisurely drive to Honfleur so we will have enough time after we get settled to walk around the town.

Then I read about the Normandy Impressionists Festival, which starts mid-April, one week after we leave France. But still, it reminds me that just one hour outside Paris and on the way to Rouen is Giverny, home to Claude Monet’s house and gardens.

Giverny-10
flickr: shogunangel under CC

The gardens close in the winter, but will just have reopened when we are there. According to the Indy:

his house is unchanged and his garden is very faithful to his plans, and truly spectacular. Corridors of brilliant orange, carpets of mauve, shimmering water and hanging curtains of willow

It certainly looks extremely pretty, and is an important destination for anyone interested in the arts. Even Mum and I, who aren’t really that artistically inclined. I can imagine the photo ops. Ah, dilemma dilemma.

paris plans, architecture

par037louvre

Flight is booked. Accommodation in France is booked: hotel in Paris, airbnb in Normandy & Brittany. The hotel and flight is part of a package deal that we think is pretty good value. It’s in the Gare St Lazare area and 3 metro stops (15mins) to the start line of the marathon.

We’ll have 3 full days in Paris, in addition to arrival day and race day. I have to spend a few hours going to the expo, then the rest of the time is ours to spend as we like. We’ll hit some touristy spots, Mum wants to go to Versailles and then the rest of the time will be hitting as many markets as we can.

paris016tour paris005sacred

I’m debating whether to bring the big camera or just stick to the small camera. Probably just stick to the small camera, seeing that we only have 20kg. It’ll be good to take pictures of things other than the usual Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe. I have those: 2008 | 2012.

There’s an architectural competition for

environmentally friendly urban designs to transform sites such as public spaces and unloved tower blocks

A nice gallery of some of the winning proposals. A few of them look just like blocks with trees and plants sticking out, if the plants are allowed to fall into disrepair the buildings will probably end up looking like it’s from a zombie apocalypse movie.

pershing

My favourite is Pershing in the 13th, by Architects Sou Fujimoto. The site is just a car park now but the result will be a mix of housing, offices and social facilities. Looks like something from the future. Anyway, there’s no chance to photograph these this time, they are all proposals and drawings. Something to look out for in a future trip.

arthur’s café

Arthur’s café is in Dalston, it’s the sort of neighbourhood caff that everyone is nostalgic for. Arthur Woodham is in his 80s and still runs the place his father opened. Fresh, honest food. Daily specials that are set like clockwork: meat pie on Mondays; liver and bacon on Thursdays. Great recent review. A bit far for us to travel, but I’ll keep it on the list. Never know.

#1 upgrade macOS

snowleopardpatch

Task #1 of 101.1001 is to upgrade macOS at least once. When I set the challenge, I thought I’d follow the normal upgrade route to 10.7, 10.8 etc. We’re at 10.11 now.

I’m still running 10.6, because of old software and old hardware. I normally upgrade when I get a new mac, and credit to the little mba, it’s still running well after more than 5 years. I’m quite happy with status quo, making me one of around 5% of mac users still on 10.6.

In a way this is a slight cheat, but my challenge…my rules. Last week there was an upgrade to snow leopard, a small patch to ensure continual compatibility with the mac store. Not that I use the mac store, but I upgraded anyway.

This is all because I want to delay getting a new machine for as long as possible.